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Businessexcellence May 07 24 Tools that have proven themselves in manufacturing can be harnessed to improve the operation of IT departments. Mike Bawn and Jeff Watzka explain how LeanSigma can create excellence through a new approach to IT management Information technology organizations are stretched thin these days. Whether they are stand-alone outsource providers or organizationally embedded departments, all IT organizations are being tasked to do more with less, improve quality and increase operating margins. Traditionally, the approach to solving these issues has been adding resources—new and more powerful technology, more staff or additional controls. While this was never LeanSigma in the data center

the business from end-to-end, request to payment. An assessment typically includes mapping the endto- end process (or value stream) as well as walking the floor and capturing the current state at the point of service delivery. In many cases simply having a steady-state operation is the “service offering.” The “boxes”, representing how they communicate with each other, are the various business processes that take place around them to get to steady-state, stay at steady-state and recover from incidents that take them away from steady-state. These are the elements of a typical data center value stream. It is not uncommon to see data centers with many value streams all operating at the same time and, in some cases, sharing resources. In this case the team identified over a dozen value streams in a single business unit. And within one of those value streams the team identified several million dollars in potential savings and improvement opportunities through the application of LeanSigma. Once the current state is clearly understood the next step is to identify the appropriate sequence of actions, tools to be used and metrics to track for transformation of the value stream to an improved state. Typically this plan includes a series of lean and six sigma problem solving activities focused on a pilot area or value stream. The pilot should be visible to the organization and clearly important to the business unit. Choosing a “safe” area for the pilot with limited risk and overall impact simply provides an opportunity for the organization to question the commitment for change. The goal is to get everyone in the organization to “buy in” to the idea that rapid and sustainable to IT leadership is delivering typically unheard of gains in productivity, quality, reliability and responsiveness as well as setting the stage for the future. In the past few years, LeanSigma has begun rapidly making a migration into the service world. Financial services companies, health care, government and other organizations have initiated programs to leverage the lessons from manufacturing to deliver rapid and sustainable improvement. Unfortunately this same migration has been slow to take hold in the IT world. Service operations leaders often view IT as a “black box” so that, as the operations improvement team is full steam ahead in redesigning their processes with LeanSigma, they seldom bring IT resources into the efforts until a solution has been designed. This is unfortunate because it does not incorporate the creativity of the entire organization. While functional improvement has value, the real improvement potential lies in the ability to view the delivery of value from the client perspective, which ultimately includes IT systems and processes. Typically, the most challenging step for an organization to improve is the “how”. Most leaders understand the need for improvement, but struggle with choosing an approach, where to start, when to start, etc. The following example traces the journey of a single data center in a Fortune 500 outsourcing firm as they begin to leverage LeanSigma to improve their performance: The first step in every LeanSigma improvement effort is to understand the current state and measure it from a client’s perspective through a hands-on assessment. The goal of the assessment is to understand Operational excellence May 07 Businessexcellence 25 desirable, it was inevitable as IT leaders typically fought to keep pace with the rate of change in technology and customer expectations. Today, however, managing network operations is a mature business and is quickly becoming a commodity service offering. With price as the leading value proposition causing shrinking margins, the pressure for a new approach is stronger than ever. Many CIOs have also realized that the capital spending approach in the past has not delivered the levels of ROI and sustainable performance demanded by today’s business environment. When it comes to finding ways to increase productivity, lower costs and improve reliability in a data center environment, there are a litany of approaches to choose from and many more that are still evolving. Most organizations, however, are discovering that these approaches are not delivering the type of long-term sustainability while also providing agility to meet the changing demands of IT operations. Many are finding the same circumstances that existed for manufacturing companies in the 1970s. Then and now, one dimensional, silver-bullet solutions are a myth; competition remains fierce and off-shoring continues to accelerate. Just as a few manufacturers did in the 1980s, a few enlightened IT leaders are beginning to realize the potential of adopting tools and methodologies from outside to create a sustainable competitive advantage. LeanSigma, the combination of lean manufacturing and six sigma, is just in the early stages of being adopted to improve IT center operations. By leveraging the combination of today’s most powerful improvement tools to ultimately reduce the cost of doing business, this new approach